No COVID-19 mass testing conducted in PH since outbreak, Duque admits

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III. Image from Rappler

In what can be deemed as a subtle confession of how the government is handling the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines so far, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that there was no mass testing ever conducted in the country since the start of the pandemic.

Asked during an online meeting with the House committee on health if the national government has implemented or at least planned to conduct mass testing, Duque said that he doesn’t recall that a mass testing was ever done.

“I think the mass testing, the word ‘mass’ is generic. I understand that even rt-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) can be used under that terminology of mass testing as well as the rapid antibody testing kits,” Duque said.

The secretary also said that even other countries only test a certain percentage of their population and that no country has conducted a “one-is-to-one” testing yet.

Duque’s statement follows public clamor and discussion about mass testing which the citizens have yet to witness even with key cities in the country already into more than two months of being in quarantine.

The official noted that the DOH is aiming to reach 30,000 COVID-19 tests daily by the end of May or early June.

He added that this “represents about 50 percent of suspects and probable causes.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque likewise supported this, saying that the government is looking to conduct an “expanded targeted testing” and no country can conduct “mass testing” for all its citizens.

“Wala pong bansa sa buong mundo na tinetest ang lahat ng kanilang mamamayan. Kaya nga po mali ang terminong mass testing,” Roque said.

However, what Duque and Roque said are both contrary to the earlier statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. who spearheads the implementation of government measures to curb coronavirus.

Galvez initially said that mass testing will be conducted in the Philippines starting April 14, to the surprise of the DOH which said that the department would still have to finalize this with the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Meanwhile, Gabriela Partylist Representative Arlene Brosas called out the government’s “incompetence and negligence” in countermeasures for COVID-19.

“The Filipino people complied with one of the longest and strictest lockdowns, militarist approach, only to be informed that the two month’s worth of sacrifice will be put into waste because of the government’s refusal to conduct mass testing?” she added.

As of May 21, the Philippines has 13,434 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 846 deaths and 3,000 recoveries.

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